New Season, New Look

Fall is almost here and in keeping with the coming changes I’ve update the look and design of this website. I think it is more readable now and easier to navigate with just three buttons – the artist, ink wash and mandala art.

The mandalas show above are the latest I’ve designed – the major new aspect is that these are much bigger – instead of the 8 x 8 or 10 x 10 format these are either 15″ square or 20″ square. It makes a difference in design parameters and opens the imagination to new ideas.

I’ve been approached by a new senior center to teach mandala art and I’ll make an announcement as soon as it is finalized. In addition, I’ve gotten the go ahead to head a workshop after the first of the year I’ve titled, “Exploring Aging as a Spiritual Journey.” As an active traveler, I am very excited about this topic.

Teaching Mandala Art

For the last year I have been teaching Mandala Art at a local senior center. My ‘students’ range from 55 to over 80 years of age and all but a few are women. The majority have never had any art training and many were reluctant to even sign up believing they had no talent for this kind of thing.

Within a few weeks they are drawing simple geometric mandalas and in a few months are creating complex designs and color palettes accented by freehand drawing. They are amazed and delighted as they discover they are indeed artists and have a great capacity for creativity. As their confidence grows, so does their daring and experimentation.

What I am most proud of in my students is their willingness to try something new, to try something they see as challenging. The other thing I find most admirable is their unqualified support for each other. There is no criticism of another’s efforts, no competition except with oneself; instead I see kindness and encouragement for all the members.

Here are some of the guidelines I give them about designing and coloring mandalas:

  1. When designing a mandala first set the basic structure or underlying grid before adding circles, ellipses, or secondary lines.
  1. It doesn’t matter whether you design a mandala from the outside in, or the inside out.
  1. To break preconceived ideas, close your eyes and pick a color to use. Or, pick a color and then blindly pick a shape to color.
  1. Use a color on the outer levels and then repeat the color on the inside. One shape should be big(ger) and one small. This repetition of color will cause the eye to move in and out of the mandala design.
  1. Use both hot and cool colors but have one predominate.
  1. White is a color and helps to give ‘space’ to other colors.
  1. There is no such thing as an ugly color.
  1. If you have trouble choosing colors, start with the smallest shapes first.
  1. Hot colors and vivid/dark colors are dominant. Light and pastel colors recede.
  1. When in doubt, use a lighter shade of a color first. You can always go darker; you cannot go lighter.
  1. Use the color black at the end of the coloring and use it to accent or correct the design.
  1. After the mandala is completed, go over all design lines in black. Use varying thicknesses of line.
  1. There is no such thing as a mistake; there is an opportunity to go into a new direction.

“A GREAT PAINTER will know a great deal about how he did it, but still he will say, “How did I do it?” The real artist’s work is a surprise to himself.” 

Robert Henri, The Art Spirit

A few examples of my current work:

New Mandala Designs

I have revisited geometric mandala design and taken it in another direction. The new designs seem to have a Moorish or Indian influence, incorporating a lot more detail and ornamentation. I am also now using illustration board rather than Bristol paper and I really like the added tooth – it seems to really grab the color and deepen it.

I have knee replacement surgery set for early May and will be using part of the downtime to combine and revamp my websites. I will keep Marie Taylor Ink but eliminate the Marie Taylor Art and Sacred Gate sites. I will also be streamlining Ink and removing a lot of the old stuff. I’ll post again this summer. 🙂

Here’s a few examples of the new look.


Madonna & Child

Byzantine Madonna
Byzantine Madonna

When my knee replacement surgery was postponed a couple of weeks ago because my surgeon was in an accident, I had the time and inclination to start an art project. I decided to make my own Christmas card. A simple undertaking I assumed. I first thought of making a mandala but soon was inspired to draw a traditional Madonna and Child within the mandala format. After a few clumsy starts I came up with the design I call “The Heavenly Madonna.”

But that was just the tip of the Madonna iceberg. All kinds of image of madonnas crowded into my imagination, all clamoring for their portraits to be done. To date I have 21 in total and think there are a few more rattling around in there.

I don’t claim that these are fine art. Some of them look rather primitive or childish but there is something charming about them, an innocence of some sort. The process has been a very beneficial one for me as it has given me time for reflection while I am drawing to consider the mother and child archetypes- perhaps the most basic and important of all symbolic relationships. The one who nurtures and the one who is nurtured, a symbiotic dance of love.

It has also given me the opportunity to reflect on my own personal mother/child interactions – to consider what I have done and what I would now do differently. Also, as I age I feel myself growing into the crone role, the old grandmother. What is there to give and receive now? Who is there to nurture and be nurtured by? Who is now the child and who the mother?

Christmas is the celebration of new beginnings and more and more I am realizing that time is itself the gift we give and receive. To fully acknowledge the transiency of this life and to release my belief in any control over its duration, requires all my courage. In return, every day is a dearer and little tearful and more beautiful.

All the blessings of the season to you and yours.

To see all of the Madonnas go to the top menu, click on Folk Mandalas and then the drop menu for Madonnas



Blog Transfer

I have decided to consolidate my art blog (this one) with my writing blog at MarieTaylorInk since the topics can often overlap in one way or another. If you have been following this blog, I invite you to go to and sign up there for updates. I have set up an art gallery there and will be adding some new work soon. I am also debating whether to transfer some of the posts/essays from here and if so, how to do it. Any ideas? I will keep this blog as is for a month or two.

A New Year

January is sort of an in-between month – by that I mean we are still winding up unfinished business from 2013 and at the same time trying to remember we are now beginning a new year. For several months I will have to consciously remind myself to write 2014 on my checks (am I the only person who still writes checks rather than use the bill paying option through the bank?)

After several months of ‘marketing’ art rather than making it, I am looking forward to getting a new supply of rice paper and losing myself in ink for a while. I was in four art show at the end of the year and have some work on exhibition this month at a local gallery. I sold several pieces for which I am grateful. In all cases the works that sold were on the small side and priced under $150; in addition, they tended to be representational rather than abstract – important information to consider for 2014.

At the gallery where I currently have some pieces there is also another artist who is showing ink work. I liked her art which is large: 3 x 5 and 4 x 6 feet – all framed and under glass. The prices ranged from $800 to $2,000.  The framing costs alone probably ran at least $150+, not to mention the 40% commission the gallery will take from any sale.

I heard one man come up to her at the opening and tell her he had curated many shows and her work was outstanding. But he didn’t buy anything. Tonight is Second Saturday in Sacramento when hundreds of people will go from gallery to gallery to see what’s on show this month. These are usually lookers not buyers; the art walk is a free source of entertainment.

When people want to hear music they pay for tickets or have a cover charge. Musicians don’t play for free. But somehow that doesn’t apply to art. Artists create it, pay for supplies, get it ready for exhibition and if a piece sells pay a big commission to the gallery. And if it doesn’t sell, which happens most of the time, have to decide if they want to recycle the art or store it.

I was talking to another young artist the other night who, of course, has a day job in advertising design and paints at night and on the weekends. He has several large (3 x 5) oil paintings on display which I doubt will sell (at least in this market) and I wondered, although I didn’t ask, what he intends to do with all these canvases when the show is over.

I was reading a Call for Artists for another local show that I found interesting and include it here:

Historically, art has been a topic of interest for many diverse groups of people. In order to achieve acclaim, the struggling artist must first satisfy the desires of just one group: those who will pay for and exhibit art. Overcoming this hurdle is certainly one of the most formative experiences of any new artist’s career. For this reason, artists who operate outside of this paradigm rarely, if ever, receive the opportunity to exhibit their art in a museum. Even when a museum chooses to do an exhibition highlighting the art of an unheard voice, it is still a voice picked by the museum for the entertainment of its donors.

The message goes on to say this show will be different in that the public will be asked to vote on the best picture of the show and the artist will then have a two week private exhibition later in the year.

If you’ve ever watched any of the art documentaries on PBS or similar channels you see stories about artists who have made it to the big time. These are artists with warehouse-sized studios, exhibitions in Paris, London, Rome, NYC and Tokyo, and whose work sells for five and six figures. But these are the exceptions, not the rule. Just as there are only so many superstars in music or movies, there are just so many artists who move in those rarified circles. For every star who gets discovered, there are probably hundreds (if not more) of equally talented ones whose names will remain unknown. I guess that’s why art always has it patrons – whether it is a Renaissance Pope, wealthy burgermeister, or Wall Street financier.

So in looking to the new year, I am thinking I will focus on one line of small, representational pieces that might sell, and on a second line of large formats that probably won’t find a buyer but which I will enjoy doing. In both cases, I will put my emphasis on making/doing/being and let the marketing take care of itself – or not.

Check out another post on Creativity and Spirituality at



WordPress sent me a summary of activity on my writing and art blogs today which I found interesting. What did kind of annoy me was a statement which said I got more views last year than this year so I might consider returning to those topics which had attracted more readers.

This assumes that the reason I write the blogs is to develop a big readership or a following that will in some way lead to either fame or fortune (or am I reading between lines that aren’t there?). If popularity or profit was my goal I would have quit posting long ago.

Of all the many people who have signed up for my blogs only a handful ever hit the like button or leave a comment. For all I know – and suspect – no one is really out there. It’s all a virtual reality that really doesn’t exist. Readers sign up, visit a couple times and then disappear into the matrix to frequent other blogs that feature more interesting topics – like the ones I wrote about last year.

No, I don’t write for readers – as much as I value them – I write for the same reason I make art. I must or something inside will shrivel up and blow away. It doesn’t matter if what I write or paint is any good – although I hope it is – it doesn’t matter if anyone else likes or agrees with me – although I am always happy to learn others may share a similar sensibility.

So if I am doing art and writing just to please myself, why bother posting it on the internet? Because the blogs give me the sense of distance I need to appreciate the writing or art in a different environment. When I paint a picture I have a certain protective or fond relationship to it – until I put it in a frame and hang it on the wall. As soon as I do that, I no longer ‘own’ the picture; it must struggle to its feet without my help.

Similarly, when I read something I have just written I am often astonished by my profundity or style. After I have printed it out and let it sit for a few days to marinate, amazing transformations occur – and not always favorable ones. The time alone has allowed the essay or poem to come into its own – or not.

This Artist/Editor duality is a necessary one and must be kept strictly separate. If the Editor enters during the creative process, the innocence and spontaneity vanishes. If the Artist visits during editing, favoritism and mediocrity often result. It’s all a balancing act.

So in the coming year (do you also find it amazing that 2014 is already here?) I shall not strive to write anything interesting or paint for profit or popularity. Now that I’ve retired I have the luxury of pleasing myself and will not abdicate that responsibility.

I hope some of you will come along for the ride. I’ll try not to make a nuisance of myself and post too often. Meanwhile, best wishes for a healthy, happy and prosperous new year!